The JCVI said vital modelling on the effectiveness of a HPV scheme in adolescent boys, upon which approval of the scheme hinges, would likely not be available until ‘early 2017 at the earliest’.
Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford said on Tuesday that a scheme targeting boys was unlikely to materialise in Wales until the JCVI issued its final advice, after several organisations and cancer charities urged the government to open the scheme to boys, according to BBC reports.
HPV vaccination is routinely offered to schoolgirls to protect them against cervical cancer, genital warts and other cancers. The JCVI has previously said that immunising girls against the virus could offer herd protection to boys, meaning extending coverage of the vaccine may not be necessary.
But Dr George Kassianos, immunisation lead at the RCGP, warned that it was ‘not enough’ to just vaccinate girls against HPV and the two-year wait was unacceptable.
‘We really need every child – every boy, every girl – to be immune to this viral disease that we have a vaccine for,’ he said. ‘It’s inconceivable to just vaccinate girls and justify another two years to find out whether it will work in boys.
‘In countries like Australia, they have published superb results on reducing the incidence of all these HPV infections in girls and boys if you vaccinate them as well – much better than if you just vaccinate girls.’
Vaccinate boys against HPV
In minutes for a meeting earlier this year, the JCVI said modelling results on the effectiveness of targeted HPV vaccination in men who have sex with men (MSM) aged 40 and below should be available imminently this year.
But it added that a scheme vaccinating all adolescent boys was ‘under consideration, pending the results of future modelling work’ that would not be completed until ‘early 2017 at the earliest’.
Dr Kassianos argued that vaccinating boys was a matter of gender equality. ‘We need to give boys equal rights to HPV prevention. We don’t give them that in the UK,’ he said.
‘We have decided to give it to girls to prevent disease, and we need to prevent it in boys as well. Yes, they don’t have a cervix for cervical cancer, but they [are vulnerable to] penile cancer, anal cancer, laryngeal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer and so on.
‘It has already been so many years we've been waiting – why do we need all this work to be done in the next two years and delay it further? We should give everybody the vaccine across the board, no matter what their gender is.’